Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The 80-20 Rule

I'm sure you've heard the phrase 80/20. If not, its a theory that the last 20% of the project takes 80% of your time. No where is that more true than working on old cars. In one of my last posts about the MG, I detailed all of the various things I had done, and how close it was to road-worthiness. Since that fateful drive, I have spent many many hours trying to diagnose the small electrical issues that remain (See Ug-letrical). Today runs through some more of that fun.

Seeing Green
The MGB has 4 major circuits running through 4 fuses. The brown circuit is "always hot". It basically runs from the Alternator to the Battery, providing juice to the headlight switch and power to the hazard relay. Red is for the courtesy lights: side marker, running lights, and license plate. Purple runs the horns, the clock, cigarette lighter and "dome" light. There are 2 lesser circuits: blue-stripped between the headlights and the headlight switch and red-stripped for illuminating the gauges. Everything else is on the Green circuit. Seriously everything else: gauges, wipers, turn/hazard signals, even the reverse lights and radiator fans. So, when there is a break in the green circuit, lots of weird things start to happen. It was odd behavior in this circuit which drove me to replacing the fusebox last fall. On my recent test drive (See MGB - Test Start, Test Drive), most of the things on the green circuit didn't work: wipers, turn signals, tachometer.

Following my own advice, I started with the fuse, and demonstrated to myself that electricity was making it past the fuseblock to the next step in the wiring. Fiddling with the fuse and testing wires must have shaken something free, though, because after simply testing voltage and wiggling wires, the wiper motor started working. So did the cooling fans. So, I started to focus on the turn signals and hazard flashers, recognizing that wire shaking could just as easily cause those things to suddenly stop working too.
taken from MG experience posting

The hazard switch is one of the more complicated bits in the MGB electrical system. I covered the early diagnosis of this circuit earlier (see MGB - Ug-lectrical). It has 6 pins coming out of the back, with 4 clustered at one end and 2 at the other. The 2 pins allow voltage through when the switch is in the hazards-are-not-on position. This permits the turn signals to work. The 4 pins clustered together map a brown circuit wire from the hazard relay (into pin #3) to light up the "hazard" light in the center of the dash (pin 4) as well as fire both left and right turn signals (pins 1 and 2).

The Interweb says these switches get crusty and need to be flipped up and down a bunch of times to get them to work again. I tried that, but it didn't work. So, I moved back to testing wires and electrical bits. I thought I'd proven that it was the brown wire which led to the relay, by routing a new wire around it, but I actually proved that the original brown wire wasn't seating. Once I pulled the wire off and onto the relay a few times, the hazards started working.... on just the driver side. I concluded that the switch was faulty. Be forewarned: the new made-in-China switches fail often, and can be short-lived. In fact, the replacement that I got from Moss appeared to have failed right out of the box. Neat.

I shot DeOxit into the plug in which the hazard switch is attached. I took a short stretch of wire and tested the plug, to prove that it was indeed the switch and not the plug. One at a time, I jumpered from pin-hole #3 to holes 1, 2 and 4. The jumpers worked, and I was able to get the dash light and one side and then the other to act properly. This confirmed my suspicions: bad hazard switches, even out of the box. I plugged the originally-on-the-car hazard back in, and tried the turn signals. Now, they worked. So, the DeOxit cleared whatever was wrong on that side, but the hazard part of the switch didn't work. To remedy, I bought a New Old Stock (NOS) part off of eBarf. While expensive at $45, having a hazard switch is a safety item I should not be driving without. Even with the new, proven functional hazard switch, the lights wouldn't flash. The hazard relay, though, made the tick-tick-ticking sound. Now, I've read that the original Lucas hazard flasher relays are a bit touchy. So, I dug around in my electrical stuff and found a bunch of relays from the TDI swap on the bus. One of them matched the pin pattern from my MGB - Ug-lectrical post. With a basic black (black for grounds in British cars) wire grounding pin #31, I connected the wire from the ignition relay and the wire heading for the hazard switch. Viola! We have hazards and directionals!

Once I solved the hazards, I moved on to the brake lights. I'd solved these before (See MGB fuse box), but with the work on the pedals and master cylinders, they stopped working again. Knowing what worked last time, I went straight to the brake light switch on the pedal box. With it in-hand, and the ignition turned to run, I pressed the little nub on the end (that lightly rests on the brake pedal arm), and the brake lights lit up. Perfect. This is a basic adjustment issue. I turned the adjustment nut further up the switch. Then, I fit the switch through the side hole and threaded it into the pedal box. I think I got some paint into the threaded hole as the switch started to bind. I cleared the holes with a bolt and re-threaded the switch. I had to employ needle-nose pliers to fully set the switch, but now, when the pedal is depressed about a 1/2 inch, the brake lights fire. I set the adjustment nut down against the pedal box, and one more little nagging issue is solved.

That's it for today. I'm still working through other 80-20 issues and hope to have the MGB ready to put to bed until the rains stop (and my money replenishes) so I can drive it to get a top put on. While I wait for that, I have a radiator replacement I need to do on the bus and C will need a second pair of hands getting the 280ZX road-worthy. And then, there's that broken daily-driver I mentioned last time... its a true target-rich environment.

Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

MGB - Ug-lectrical

One of my least favorite things when it comes to working on cars is electrical issues. Unfortunately, most people feel that way so when an older car starts having electrical problems, that's when they start appearing on craigslist. Today, I will cover my efforts on the "green" circuit in the little British car as I try to figure out why the turn signals don't work. First, for my US friends, happy Thanks Giving.

But I Thought...
Just about every electrical realization starts the same way. You're cruising along, doing your thing when some system just stops working. That sinking feeling is universal. As much as you want to direct your mind to a simple and easy explanation, it's not that easy. 'it could just be a really old fuse went bad". Yeah, sure. That's happened. I'm sure we've all read of an account on the internet when it was just a single fuse that went bad for no reason. I've never had that kind of luck. When a fuse pops, it pops for a reason. Regardless, that is the first place to go: check to see if any fuses are bad. Today could be your lucky day.

Wiring Diagramming
Once you've ruled out the fuse just popping for no reason, you need to start thinking about a viable reason for it popping. If it isn't a fuse, your problem is the same: rooting out what stopped working and why. This starts with a wiring diagram. With the advent of the interweb, lots of full color diagrams are available for free (or a small fee). Older cars have much less complicated diagrams, yet they have more problems because of age. I was able to find a nice electronic version of the MGB diagram at advance auto wire.

Diagram Analysis
This could be kind of fun, at least for a simple diagram like this one. When I look at the pages and pages of diagrams for my 2000 Jetta, its really not nearly as much fun. BUT, the modern diagrams are sub-divided well once you get the hang of it. Either way, find the sub-system that isn't working. On the single diagram, it might seem easier, but the many pages style have a table of contents. You just need to know the name of the system you're looking for. "Electrical thingy" won't be specific enough. Anyway, once you find the sub-system on the diagram, study the colored lines, and figure out where they connect with other things. In my case, I can see many components riding on the green wires. Some of them work and some of them don't. Since the turn signals leverage lots of the hazard wiring, I checked the hazards and they didn't work. So, I was able to isolate the areas of the green circuit which are the most likely sources of my troubles: the ignition relay, the wire from the ignition relay to the hazard relay, the hazard switch, the wire from the hazard relay to the hazard switch, the wires from the switch to the lights and the turn signal stalk/switch.

On-car Analysis
Equipped with this, I started looking at the most likely issue: the hazard switch. These are old and crusty, and they fail. The hazard switch pushes out from behind and a multi-wire plug can be removed to enable testing and replacing the switch. With my multi-meter, I checked continuity on the various posts (continuity test position is the icon with an arrow pointing right into a vertical line down near the bottom). I found that the switch would not send a signal to the right-turn post, so the switch was bad, but it should be sending signal to the left side. The switch is part of the problem, but not all of it. I moved on to the relay. I know the car can run, so the relay should be fine. To rule it out, though, I put the negative battery cable onto the negative post and verified that there was 12V at the relay post which powered the hazard circuit. There was, so this leaves the wire from the relay to the flasher, the flasher or the wire from the flasher to the hazard switch. I disconnected the battery again, ran a long tester-wire from the relay to the flasher, reconnected the battery and tried the hazard switch. The left side blinkers started flashing. Cool... except that meant that the issue was the wire from the relay in the engine compartment to the flasher behind the glove box.

Tearing into It
the 3-pin relay. 31 goes to ground
I figured the wire had a kink or was broken. To remedy, a new wire would need to be put in. Rather than have a lone wire routing back, I chose instead to open up the harness and identify the wire failure first. I couldn't find it. I did discover, however, that the previous owner had put an in-line fuse between the ignition relay and the flasher. I verified that there was continuity from the relay to the far side of the fuse, and again confirmed that the wire was not conducting. So, I removed the wire harness wrap. Inexplicably, the wire started working and the blinkers on the left side would flash when I flipped the hazard switch. Relieved that I wasn't going to have to route new wire, I decided to show Boo.

Unfortunately, the hazard switch chose that time to completely fail, so we could hear the blink-blink-blink from the flasher, but no lights. GAHH!! I love electrical issues. I swapped out the hazard switch, but the new switch had no effect. I checked the voltage on either side of the relay, and it shows 12V all the time now. So, maybe its a bad harness plug that the hazard switch goes into. More multi-meter time needed. Times like these, I ask myself how much work would it be to install an entirely new harness? The answer according to the interweb is 40 hours and $550 for the harness (See AdvanceAutoWire). Eek. Maybe I'll just keep playing whack-a-gremlin.

Relay and Pins
In case you discover your issue is the hazard relay, here's some useful discovery I had while investigating possible causes with the relay: The original 2-pin relays are still available, but 3-pin versions are more so. The 3rd pin (31) goes to ground, which, with old cars where the grounds can get dicey, that's a really good thing. Also, the 3-pin variety are very widespread and used as relays for all kinds of cars, bringing their cost down below $5 each. The original 2-pin relays are around $15. For some, that originality is worth the difference. I just want my flashers to work. Having a relay that is available everywhere is a bonus.

Unfortunately, this is as far as I've gotten on these electrical issues. Lots of cross-wind with the 280ZX, a daily-driver suddenly out of operation, and then there's the usual holiday crazy. Last, work is increasing in intensity as we approach "year end" and managers everywhere are realizing that bonuses are tied to delivered work that hasn't materialized yet. That usually means more pressure from above to get more done which leads to working more hours in the evening or on weekends. Looking forward to January and the return to a measured pace.

As always, thanks for following along...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

MGB - Test Start, Test Drive

Today's post covers the initial tests of all the changes that I did this past year on the little MGB. It's been quite a year. In August of 2016, I picked up a little British car to bust my knuckles on over the winter. I needed a break from the bus, and it looked like it was going to be a cosmetic fixer. As you've read along this past year, you learned as I did that there was much more to it than that. The brakes were squishy on the drive home, so I went to redo them only to lose the master cylinder in the process. I went to replace the brake master cylinder and had that scope explode into redoing the clutch master cylinder as well. We found rust-through in the floor under the nasty carpet. We found the front suspension bushings has been replaced with window insulation... or at least it looked like it. The coolant pump was failing. The fuel tank was leaking. So much to do and fix. Before I turned the key, though, I changed the oil and oil filter.

We replaced both front disks, pads and hoses. In the rear, we replaced all of the brake parts: shoes, hardware, drums, wheel cylinders and the one hose. We replaced the brake master cylinder and polished the vacuum assist. Last, we replaced the fluid from end-to-end (kinda obvious with everything else getting redone). On the clutch, we replaced the master cylinder. Between the two master cylinders, we tore down, cleaned and painted the pedal box and pedals. The pedals got new rubber pads as well. Detailed postings 1, 2 and 3.

We ripped out the passenger and driver floors. The rails were repaired, flattened and ground to bare metal. We measured, drilled and ground-to-metal for plug and seam welding the new floors and then had a party to weld them in. The seams were sealed with black seam-sealer and then we experimented with flex-seal to 100% fill the little gaps. Undercoating was applied. I didn't post on it, but in the rear of the little cabin, a prior owner (PO) had cut a big section out of the wall between the cabin and trunk. I repaired that big hole while leveraging the opening to install 2 6x9" Polk Audio speakers. The trunk lid was removed, cleaned, splits were welded and the underside painted. The trunk floor was cleaned, painted and sound deadener was added. The lid had new hinges installed, and the gap on the driver-side accounted for with washers so the trunk now seals all the way around. Detailed postings 12 and 3.

The tank was removed and sent to a radiator shop for cleaning and lining. All new fasteners were used during install, and we replaced the hoses, hose clamps, and float / level-sender. Up front, new hoses were installed and a discovered-to-be-faulty upside-down safety switch was replaced with another filter. I will be restoring a safety switch later. We discovered this system leak during final system testing. Detailed posting here.

One of the first things we learned about from British Auto Works was the failing coolant pump. This system was the last to get our attention, though. We pulled the pump and the radiator. The radiator was treated with a vinegar and distilled water solution to de-rust / de-scale as was the heater (though it was done in-place). The coolant overflow bottle was paint-stripped and polished and a new pump installed. All new hoses and mostly-new hose clamps were installed as was the thermostat and thermostat housing. Detailed postings 1 and 2.

Front Beam
Second in scope only to the floor replacement, I spent last winter rebuilding the front suspension and steering. The steering mechanism got a clean-up, new gaiters, oil and new tie-rod ends. The suspension was completely refreshed, including new poly-impregnated rubber bushings all around, lots of paint prep and painting, new lower control arms, new front shocks, new front wheel bearings and upgraded sway-bar bushings. It's practically an entirely new front end. Detailed postings about the steering here and here, the front beam 1, 2, 3 and 4. Let's not forget replacing the engine mounts. That was fun.

Along the way, everything was tested to some degree. The cooling system doesn't leak at rest. The suspension doesn't make noise no matter who is jumping up and down on the bumpers. We stomped on the floors from above and beneath. The clutch engages when the pedal is depressed... and the engine isn't running. The brakes stop the car from rolling when nudged in the garage. These little tests gave us confidence to keep going, and believe that the system was ready. Eventually, you have to put gas in the tank and turn the key.

The last thing you do before you test is hookup the battery. I verified that the battery still had 12V (I was shocked it didn't need a charge), and then connected the leads. The key had been turned to RUN to unlock the steering, so the fuel pump started up. Fuel fountained under the hood, so we tightened a few things, and ultimately removed a broken flip-over safety switch. Once solved, I hopped into the driver seat, put the car in neutral, pulled the hand brake and turned the key again. Fuel pump started up, so I waited a second. After confirming that the gas-fountain wasn't happening I turned the key to start. The engine fired up almost instantly. I revved the engine a few times, and looked for exhaust color. There really wasn't any exhaust, so early concerns about running rich may not have merit. No black smoke to indicate oil nor sweet white smoke to indicate coolant either.
Test Successful.

A Drive
Running the engine in my garage felt awesome, but to really test many of the systems, we need some straight road, and more gas.. and a seat for a passenger and some seat belts. With the new floor came new embedded nuts for the bolts for the seat. this made the seat install a 10 minute effort even as I helped C on his new ride. Add in the retractable seat belts I bought last fall and I'm ready for a street test. Once the rain stops. Oddly enough, during the overnight after the test start, the battery ran down to nearly 0. I must have left the key in the ACC or RUN position, causing systems to stay active all night. Jeez. Road test has to wait while I charge the battery. While waiting, I noticed the front driver running light wasn't working and fixed it with some DeOxit and some patience. I rooted around and found a couple of bolts which could hold the steering column plastic covers on and put that together. I found myself wiping down seats and fiddling with things waiting for the nice weather to arrive.

Finally, I had an opportunity. We had an unseasonably nice stretch during the week and the weekend following was absolutely stunning: upper 60's and clear skies. So, I moved the herd of cars around the driveway, and pushed the MG out of the garage. With a clear rear-view to match the clear sky, I jumped in, fired it up and backed down the driveway. It's loud, and after a little it's-cold sputtering, it settled down. I was able to move through the gears easily; the clutch responded very well. The brakes still had some spongy in them, but I sped off down the street anyway. I drove maybe a mile around the neighborhood, and then started noticing all of the systems that were not working: everything on the green circuit. I chose not to drive to the gas station and instead drove home.

Upon arrival, I discovered that the thermostat housing was leaking. I torqued it down with a plan to look for a leak there on my next test flight. No gas leaked from any fuel line, the brakes remained consistently spongy so I'll need to do another round of bleeding there. The exhaust is loud everywhere with pop-pop-pop noises on deceleration, telling me there's an exhaust leak. Maybe multiple. Let's not forget the green circuit isn't working. Ultimately, though I declare Test Successful.

It was awesome to get that little car going. The throttle response is great, the steering is tight, the suspension over bumps is mellow. I have a few things still to do before it's really road-ready, but none of it is scary. Except maybe getting a top. That may have to wait until I can pay someone else to do it.

Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Oh Gee, How bout a Z?

Today's brief post is about finding and acquiring a project car for my 16 year old son. To our former service men and women, happy Veteran's Day and thank you for your service.

Not our Z: rust in usual spots
Long before my divorce, and re-marriage, I had made a commitment to my sons. I promised that when they were ready to commit to a car, the project that it represented, the time it would require, etc, that I would invest $1000US on something. When T was 17, we drove up near Seattle and got him a late 90's A4 (See Gotta Keep Moving). Well, his brother C has just turned 16, and while he doesn't yet have a license, he is now ready to commit. To be fair, $1000US bought more car 10 years ago when I made the commitment, but we've had pretty good luck, and good finds are out there. You just need to work that much harder.

C has been keenly aware of this money-for-car arrangement. Last Summer, I drove to Vancouver WA to look at a project 280Z, but the rust had affected too much of it. The body had large nasty rust holes in the rear quarters, rust pinholes in the rear lid and a couple of flat tires. The interior was kind of sad too, but it was complete. After a few minutes of looking, I knew it wasn't passing muster, so I walked on it. C was disappointed, but that didn't dissuade him from looking harder. He likes sports cars. So, he was looking at BMW's, Camaro/Firebirds and, always, Datsun 240/260/280's. We talked to lots of people, emailed more and drove by a few, and after a year we thought we may have finally found one worth looking at.
not our Z: more rust

C found a 1979 280ZX project that had hit a hard patch. He had rebuilt the engine, fixed up the transmission and replaced the clutch. He had stripped the interior of everything but the seats and door-cards and slapped on fancy rims and tires with a plan to turn the car into a drifter. Unfortunately, while driving to the brake shop to get the brakes done, he was hit, damaging the driver door and front driver fender. The owner was working multiple projects and needed cash for the Mustang he was almost done with. Meanwhile, the 280ZX wasn't getting much focus and the accident had pushed away some of the love for the project. Listed at $1200, we figured the engine / transmission was probably worth the money. Add in the rims and tires and we could probably get our money back and more just by parting it out. BUT, if the frame wasn't bent or damaged in the accident, we could pop new body panels on there and make a car out of it. So, C made an appointment to go look at it on one of the final nice days of the fall.

That'll Work
C's Z
Since C didn't have a license yet, we brought his brother T with us. I decided to make this a learning opportunity for both of them by having them lead the conversation, inspection and test driving. We walked the car, searching for rust and weird frame issues first. The rust we found was surface stuff. The floors were perfect: no rust, and well protected. I thought they might have been replaced, perhaps by the person this owner bought the car from. We did our other look-sees as well, using all of our senses as best we could and then T took it out for a test drive with the owner while C and I stayed with the owner's friend and asked a ton of questions. T came back grinning from ear to ear. Clearly, he enjoyed driving it. Rather than get too deep into that, though, he jumped into giving us feedback: the brakes were good, same with the steering. Neither one impacted the other. Hard stops were good. Held firm over bumps. All the switches and dials work, lights, turn & brake signals too. I made the decision to let them make the decision. They had asked all the right questions, and got good answers. They wanted to do the build, so I shelled out $1100US cash, C signed the title, and the deal was struck.

not our Z: interior trashed, but complete
The appointment was in Newburg, which is around 30 minutes from my place. Since the boys made the decisions, they got to drive the new project home, while I followed in the chase car. That little car has some get-up-and-go. They turned the corner from the side-street onto the 99W and simply took off. They didn't speed; they just arrived at the speed limit much faster than I did. We stayed together, though, and they pulled all the way into the driveway and under the awaiting canopy. The smiles on their faces remained for quite some time after the engine was turned off. I think this is going to be a fun build.

Since we got it home, C has been over a few times and has made some headway. I'll post on that soon. Thanks, as always, for following along-